New advanced transition lenses added to Army's list of eyewear

The Army has added new transition lenses to the Authorized Protective Eyewear List (APEL). The new lenses for both spectacles and goggles provide ballistic protection and the ability to transition between light and dark tint in less than one second, enabling soldiers to accommodate changing light conditions, such as entering a room.

The Army is letting soldiers know that its authorized protective eyewear list, or APEL, has been updated with advanced transition protective lenses and cold-weather goggles to resist fogging.

The list, which can be viewed in full here, features 27 products that have been vetted by Program Executive Office Soldier and are updated every two years.

The last update took survey feedback from soldiers, who ranked faster transition lenses at the top of their list of priorities, according to PEO Soldier.

In an Army news release last week, the service highlighted the addition of Transition Combat Eye Protection lenses, which use sensors to respond to visible light instead of UV rays and help with the transition from outdoor to indoor light conditions.

The “transition happens in milliseconds," according to the release, preventing the loss of “situational awareness to see incoming projectiles or enemy attacks instantly."

Normal commercial transition lenses can take 5-10 minutes to adjust and can fail to darken in bright sunlight if a soldier is sitting inside a vehicle.

But the new transition lenses use "a one-second button” to make the transition automatic, according to Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of head protection at PEO Soldier.

“It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors … it’s electronic," McCown said in the release.

PEO Soldier also unveiled a cold-weather goggle that can resist fogging in colder conditions, the release reads.

Approved eyewear has an APEL logo and can be purchased at post exchanges and AAFES stores. All products with an APEL logo marked March 2019 or earlier can still be used for ballistics fragmentation protection, according to the Army news release.

All approved eyewear is tested and approved for soldier use at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The testing includes resistance to abrasion, optical distortion and other ballistic and non-ballistic trials.

Quality eye protection has proven invaluable to soldiers downrange.

“We have seen some really horrific injuries with roadside bombs,” Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at PEO Soldier, said in the release.

“The soldier’s face is all chewed up,” he added. “But when they pull his glasses off, where the skin is intact around their eyes, where you know without a doubt that eyewear saved their eyes.”

Vendors are required by the Army to test their products in six-month intervals, according to the release. Every two years, the products have to be recertified by a third-party laboratory. Quality audits are also conducted annually at each facility.

The list of approved eyewear is kept at 27 options “to encourage competition among vendors to deliver higher quality protects, as well as keep prices affordable for soldiers of each rank,” the release reads.